September and October are months where things start to happen. Smallmouth and Largemouth bass increase their feeding efforts in anticipation of the upcoming winter. Cover in the water mostly disappears as the grass and other aquatic vegetation start to die off. The game is changed. Fish begin to gather in large schools, focusing their feeding efforts on bait fish. Bass, particularly, form large schools in the fall and start following shad and bait fish, moving as the bait fish move. An indication of bass schooling is having numerous smallies follow your retrieve to the boat.
Finding the fish is at its most difficult in the fall. You can land bass after bass in one location if you find the school. Remember, the fish in the fall are following bait fish and not relating to a specific type of cover. If you can find these large schools of bait fish, whether using a depth finder or by visual clues, you will find the bass. As with everything this fall fishing technique is not fool proof. You can still catch a few nice size bass around chunk rock, above and below shelvings and other typical cover types. However if you are fishing for both quality and quantity fish the bait schools for greater success. Locations to focus on are flowing current water in streams and rivers. Bait fish will congregate here and so will the bass. In lakes, you can find bass suspended at various depths depending on what depth their feeding source is. These changes in bass behavior means one thing, the bass are constantly on the move. You can land fish after fish today and tomorrow strike out in the same spot.
Focus your efforts in fall fishing on finding the bait fish that these smallmouth and largemouth bass feed on. The behavior change effects not only the bass but it also impacts how you fish. Avoid spots fished in the spring and summer months and move to run and gun techniques around bait fish. Baits also have to change to reflect this. Switch to large stick baits, natural color flukes and large crankbaits. Natural colors work best, but remember to take water and weather conditions into consideration. The fall transition is the time of plenty, keep you boat out and your line in the water.
- Don Manning (FISH THIS)